Let the Genius Be Nurtured

Aruna Raghavan

 

Are child prodigies truly rare? Or are they lost in this world that believes children must be ‘moulded’? Are children clay that they may be moulded? Or are they living, vibrant beings who need to be nurtured?

 

I believe, if anything, today the world has more prodigies than ever before. In any given field, especially the fine arts and games, the average age of performers and winners seems to be getting lesser and lesser. Children are taking graduate exams at 14 and 16. Being invited by NASA is not as rare as say ten years ago. Children in advertisements act as well as adults. And the number too seems to be growing. Still, I believe there should be many more. For every one child who makes it to the front page there must be dozens who did not. The point here is not how that one child made it, as much as why the others didn’t?

 

I was travelling from Mumbai to Chennai. Travelling in the same bay was a mother-son team. The mother was working hard at marking important answers while the son was listless and wanting to sleep. He was obviously going to take an exam. When the son slept, I got talking to the mother. The boy – just 13 years – was on his way to play tennis at the national level. He was seeded 2nd. That was not all. The boy was also a genius in music and had taught himself to play the keyboard. There was a mid term exam waiting for him back home. Was the child to concentrate on the game to be played that weekend or on the exam the following week?

 

On another occasion I met a child who at a tender age of 7 was presenting classical music performances all over the world. His father’s grouse was – the boy ranked third in school. “Why could he not top the class?” was the refrain. When all energy was being used for learning new ragas and increasing the repertoire, where from will the child draw energy to learn what every other child in school learns? I thought, given the circumstances, he was doing extremely well.

 

When a nine year old dances she brings a lump in my throat. There is an innate understanding of bhava. What does she do? Goes to school like any other child. She tops the class. Dance is confined to a few evenings a week.

 

What are we, as parents, doing to our children? Have we forgotten what education is all about? Education should make a child delight in life. The only purpose of education is to put a child in touch with his Self. It should free him to follow his own calling and lead him to know more about the creation, the relationship between the creation and himself. All work becomes meaningful when done in that spirit. If education is to lead to the discovery of the Self, any one activity done in the right spirit will bring about that discovery.

 

Today we have forgotten what education is or why we at all we educate our children. Everything is seen as a direct link to money to be earned. I have nothing against money or earning by the sackfuls. What I object is the pressure we put on these precious children.

Where the child is a genius, where the child shows a remarkable aptitude must we nurture it, for it is that that will form the child.

 

To go back to the first example: if the child were taught through tennis that he must play to win, must be fair on court, must take whatever results in his stride, that would be a greater education than learning English grammar rules and composition. If the parents recognise that for him everything else is merely a skill that he may or may not acquire he will be free to pursue his calling.

 

If the young musician understands the real glory of his music and understands the expression ‘music is divine’ then his education has begun. To this child history, science or math is redundant. Or if the sweet dancer dedicates her talent and then commences on the journey of discovery she will be truly educated even if she does not know the periodic table.

 

For the rest, to parents and education authorities I have only this to say:

Can there not be a special learning programme for children such as these, where parents may tutor the children as they travel. History, geography, literature and languages require no classroom and are best unfolded in discussions; theories of physics can be treated as gymnastics of ideas. In other words, can there not be a special curriculum developed for each of these children leading from their own circumstances. Do we have to box them in?

 

And by the same token, isn’t every child born with something special that needs to be fed and taken care of? Are we taking the time to find the beauty of each child and addressing it? Are we allowing the spark that every child is born with to grow? It is heart rending when you consider that every one of us expects to be measured separately at the tailor’s for clothes we wear but all children learn the same thing in the same way at school. When are we going to take our children in our arms and say, “My child you are special and special you will remain.”? When are we going to fight for his right to reveal his ‘spark’? What are bureaucrats talking about when they speak of a common curriculum for the entire nation? Not about education and certainly not about children who, as I said in the beginning, are vibrant, joyous, individual beings given to us to remind us what life should be.

 

I have a few questions to ask:

Did any one ever ask M.S. Subbalakshmi her academic qualifications?

Did any one ever ask Vijay Amritraj whether he graduated?

Isn’t our present system of education a form of cloning that we otherwise scream against?

Is our present system of education revealing a fear of the bright and intelligent?

 

I have only one request:

Let the child pursue that which will teach him to live with himself harmoniously.

The author may be contacted at actrust@sancharnet.in